Longevity Secret #2: Avoid Catastrophizing.

longevity Jun 23, 2019
This is the second blog of the Longevity Series and based on the findings of The Longevity Project - an 8-decade study on what leads to good health and a long life. To read the first blog, click here.
According to research, your quality of life can be broken down into two major buckets: 
1. Evaluative Wellbeing: How you think about and perceive the overall condition of your life.


2. Experiential Wellbeing: How you are actually experiencing life on a day to day basis (if you have energy, if you’re healthy, enjoy going to work, have enough money to sustain yourself etc.) 

Both of these are equally powerful, but your evaluative wellbeing is the foundation because it's a measure of your mindset. It's the lens through which you view the world and everything that happens to you in life. 
On one end of the Evaluative Wellbeing scale are those of you who always see opportunity and the sunnier sides of things. You’re naturally wired to see the good in the world regardless of the actual circumstances. But on the very opposite end of the spectrum are the catastrophizers.

Catastrophizers are the Chicken Littles of the world.Related image

To them, the sky is always falling. They see impending doom everywhere. And people in this category are scientifically proven to be destined for a shorter life span…. 
In fact, according to the Longevity study, people who catastrophize were much more likely to die of heart attacks/strokes, cancer, and accidents or violence at a much younger age. 
How does that happen??
Because when you are wired to think the worst, you can actually bring trouble onto yourself and into your life.
Now, even though most of you might not fall into this extreme category, many of us exemplify catastrophizing tendencies that we can work on in order to strengthen our mindset and increase our overall quality of life.

So I’ve compiled a list of questions below that you can use as a little assessment to gauge your Evaluative Wellbeing so you can see how close or far away you are from being a Chicken Little. 

  1. Do you overgeneralize a problem or turn it into something more dramatic than it actually is? Rather than focusing on the specific issue and addressing it head on?
  2. Do you blame yourself in a disempowering way? Are you overly hard on yourself? As opposed to simply taking responsibility, then taking action, and moving on?
  3. Do you always feel afraid of something - or feel like there’s an underlying anxiety that you can’t quite pinpoint?
  4. Do you err on the side of taking action in life? When you set goals, do you automatically start thinking of ways you want to achieve them? 
  5. Do you feel hopeful and excited about your future and life in the years to come?
  6. Do you generally feel like you make things better when you get involved in things?
If you answered NO to the first 3 and YES to the second 3 you’re in good shape. If not, there might be some room for improvement. 

Here are some tips to improve the way you think about and perceive your life events and avoid turning into a Chicken Little. 😉

  • Whenever life throws a challenge or problem your way, get into the habit of asking yourself “What am I meant to learn from this experience?” or “How will this experience turn me into a better person?” No matter how bad it is, there is ALWAYS a lesson to learn and every challenge increases your awareness of what others may also be going through. 
  • Train yourself to recognize negative thoughts and say “STOP IT.” Watch the (funny) video at the end of the blog for help on this or practice meditation in order to become more aware of your thoughts and realize your thoughts aren’t real and they ARE NOT who you are.
  • Analyze the content of your conversations. Notice how much of your life consists of small talk, gossip, or negative conversations. Your common conversations are wiring your brain in a positive or negative direction. Change the nature of your conversations by asking more meaningful questions and making a rule for yourself not to engage in gossip and negativity. 
  • Invest in ways to consciously create your life. The best way to feel good about your overall quality of life is to work hard at “creating it” vs. just letting life happen to you. Invest in coaches, courses, programs, and retreats that help strengthen your mind and enable you to think about what’s truly important to you. (At my Ikigai Retreat in Costa Rica we’ll be doing exactly that.) 
In summary, it is absolutely crucial to make a conscious effort to improve your mindset (or Evaluative Wellbeing). Improving your circumstances will never work if your brain is wired to think that things are never good enough, or that the grass is always greener on the other side.
And remember that building a strong mind is a life-long commitment. It takes constant practice and work. But it’s worth it because it affects every single aspect and area of your life.

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